Six United Way programs that support students - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Six United Way programs that support students

September 9, 2022

Students stand and sit together in a school stairwell

Six United Way programs that support students

Back to school can be stressful, but United Way is here to support students and parents as they navigate their educational journey.

United Way of the Alberta Capital Region helps kids from the start.

Our programs and initiatives lay foundations for early learning and development, support through the school years, and all the way to high school completion to give the next generation the tools they need to succeed and break out of the cycle of poverty.

Through these programs, children and youth develop increased confidence and self-esteem, and improve their problem-solving and coping skills. Programs also help them to increase concentration and mental preparedness for school and improve academic outcomes.

We work directly with schools in the region and partner with dozens of social services agencies and community centres to address the range of needs and circumstances of vulnerable children and youth.

Here are six United Way programs and initiatives that support students and their families by empowering them to build brighter and stronger futures.

The Kid Kit®

Three staff members smile while packing up supplies for Kid Kits

While it may look like a simple care package, The Kid Kit® is a powerful tool that helps families build stronger relationships while also guiding their child’s development.

United Way’s Kid Kit program provides resources for parents to use with their children to increase bonding, early learning, and positive development. As a result, children are better prepared for the social aspects of starting school and can focus on academics. And we know that success in school can help kids stay in school until graduation, which helps to break the cycle of poverty.

Who it supports: There are five different kits, one for each developmental stage from birth to five years of age. Each Kid Kit contains activity cards that describe “how” to play with your child and “why” a particular activity is necessary for development as well as all the toys, books, and craft supplies to complete the activities.

The kits are distributed free of charge to designated programs within agencies and organizations that provide services to young children and their families along with home supports.

How you can help: Funding for The Kid Kit is generously provided by the Zupan Family; however, we often need volunteers to create kits between February and June each year.


All in for Youth

Two young women walk together and smile

Graduating high school can mean the difference between living in poverty and breaking the cycle.

All in for Youth (AIFY) brings together local services to help address the complex needs children and their families face when living with low income. By supporting youth on their educational journey, AIFY is focused on increasing graduation rates, reducing drop-out rates, and setting youth up for success.

AIFY removes barriers to learning through mentorship, student success coaching, student and family mental health therapy, out-of-school time group programming, school nutrition programming, and in-home family supports.

The holistic supports offered by AIFY have become vital to many students and families as the pandemic amplified the challenges of living in low-income.

And the positive change created through AIFY school supports ripple outward from students to families and the broader community.

Who it supports: In 2021, 2,112 students had access to All in for Youth services. That same year, All in for Youth expanded its services to three more schools through Edmonton Public School Board and Edmonton Catholic School Division.

How you can help: You can donate directly to All in for Youth and help provide these life-changing supports to students and their families.


Tools for School

Two volunteers smile while holding backpacks full of school supplies

Families shouldn’t have to choose between school supplies and putting food on the table. But with your donations, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region can help.

For nearly three decades, United Way’s Tools for School has been there to help families and kids access the supplies they need to be successful in school. Backpacks are built by volunteers and contain brand-new supplies that correspond with the student’s grade level.

Who it supports: This year, Tools for School will help more than 16,000 students in the Alberta Capital Region—a new record for us. We’ve seen a steady increase in needs from schools across in the Edmonton area in recent years. Families are stretched thin due to the socioeconomic ripple effects of the pandemic, increased cost of living, and our region is also facing an influx of newcomers and refugees seeking a new start.

How you can help: We still need donations to help close the gap and send students to class with a backpack and their heads held high. You can donate online or at your local Edmonton and area Staples store. You can also volunteer to build backpacks at our InKind Exchange.


Make Your Mark on Poverty

Students from Roberta MacAdams school raise hand drawn signs of encouragement

Presented by Dentons, Make Your Mark on Poverty is a one-of-a-kind program that fosters leadership skills in students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 as they create and deliver projects that help people in need in the Edmonton region.

United Way provides guidance and grant funding for student-led Make Your Mark initiatives, while also supporting teachers as they educate students on empathy, poverty, the role of non-profits, and their own agency as the next generation of changemakers.

Who it supports: This past school year, hundreds of students at schools in four local divisions were awarded grants to take on projects that helped people in need in our area. Throughout the process, students learned more about how complex poverty is, and how empathy and understanding help to make our communities a better place for everyone.

How you can help: Corporate sponsors and volunteers can help MYM students bring their projects from ideas to reality. Learn how your organization can help by connecting with our Service Hub.


Digital Equity

Two students hold gift wrapped Chromebooks and smile

During the pandemic, United Way and our supporters rallied to make sure that students who needed Chromebooks had access to technology so they could stay connected to school, and to their community.

The pandemic was a catalyst for United Way’s Digital Equity program. Technology is no longer a luxury—it’s a basic need that keeps the world at our fingertips, even if we can’t safely leave our homes. Even as in-person learning and social supports return, we still need to bridge the digital divide.

Who it supports: To date, United Way has provided over 1,500 Chromebooks to students and families in need. Schools provide many supports for students and families outside of education — including food, mental health, and family supports — and now these important connections and relationships can continue.


Period Promise

Two hands hold period products up outside of an all-gender washroom sign

School and adolescence are hard enough as it is without worrying about affording pads or tampons or having to skip class because you have your period.

United Way’s Period Promise initiative is devoted to making fundamental change and bringing menstrual equity to our schools.

When students don’t have access to menstrual products, they may experience anxiety, shame, and embarrassment – which may result in them missing school, extracurricular activities, and social opportunities. We also know that graduating is a key milestone in breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, so missing class due to menstruation is another barrier to student success.

Who it supports: With funding from the Government of Alberta, and with product sponsorship from Proctor & Gamble, United Ways across the province are joining together for a one-year pilot project to provide free menstrual products in 50 Alberta schools.

Not only will this partnership make period products accessible for those who need them and bring peace of mind to students and families, it will also help address the stigma around menstruation. Periods are a fact of life, and the more we normalize these conversations, the easier things will be for future generations.

How you can help: Break the stigma. When talking about periods, avoid using euphemisms such as “Aunt Flo” or “Code Red.” Menstruation is a fact of life, so discuss it openly, without shame. You can also support Period Promise and help other vulnerable people in our community get dignified access to menstrual supplies.